Dreadlocks Creation Guide

So, you’re thinking of getting dreadlocks. Let me tell you, I’m as excited as you are, remembering how I felt when I took the decision and finally gave myself dreadlocks at home.

In case you aren’t sure yet, or in case you can’t wear dreadlocks permanently but you like the style, we can recommend trying some temporary synthetic dreadlocks. See our synthetic dreads guide here and the FAQ page here, to learn everything about how to install and maintain them.

If you’re looking to get permanent dreads, you’re in the right place to learn how to create them. By the end of this article you’ll know exactly the different ways to dread your hair, and what you should especially pay attention to, for best results.

You can also look for a professional loctician. We’ve put together a directory of locticians (UK and Ireland only, at the moment) to make it easier for you.

Woman with dreadlocks and tattoos standing in front of car with one hand on head

 Photo by DeMorris Byrd on Unsplash

If you want to get dreadlocks without the help of a loctician, you have two main choices:

On one side the “freeform locs” or organic dreadlocks, meaning that you don’t need to do much, just stop combing your hair. It can be a little bit more complex than that, but you decide how much work you want to put into it.

On the other side there’s a whole range of manual techniques, which require a little bit of extra instructions and specific tools, and are often combined together for almost instant results. 

These 2 choices sound like nature VS manmade, but there’s usually a big deal of nature and manual adjustments in both methods. 

First choice: freeform locs, the way of nature

If you choose this method, theoretically you can just sit back and time will work its magic for you. By stopping combing or brushing your hair, no matter if you have afro type or any other type of hair, you’ll get dreadlocks. However, it’s beneficial to put a little bit of “manual encouragement”, to help them form well.

Woman with dreadlocks facing away and sitting infront of wood piles

Photo by Hannah Gullixs on Unsplash

Note: hair behaviour varies a lot from person to person, the result of this method is often unpredictable but two things are sure: your dreads will have all different sizes and shapes, and the sections will look like jagged islands. Also, they take months if not years to become actual looking dreads: up to that point they’re a big mess. Which, of course, can be a good thing if you can pull it off! But it’s not for everybody. The good news is, you can boost the maturation process with the next tips. 

Tip 1: when your hair starts dreading, you’ll be able to feel with your fingers which sections are forming well, and which should get a little encouragement. To make sure they knot into beautiful single locs, pull the dreadlocks-wannabe apart from each other regularly, separating them at the roots. 

Tip 2: give your hair some love, in the form of locking spray or locking gel. We can offer you tightening gels and tightening sprays, which are blends of quality ingredients that will help you get mature, tight dreads, in way less time.

Tip 3: you can opt for a little “intervention” with some palm-rolling and/or crocheting, two manual techniques we’re about to see.

Second choice: create your dreads manually, one by one

If you’re choosing to dread your hair manually, start by partitioning your hair into sections. To learn about sectioning your hair, check our guide here.

Woman with dreadlocks looking down and smiling

Photo by fauxels da Pexels

Once you have your sections, you can start with the following techniques.


  1. Twist&Rip: for loose hair only, no tool needed. Take one section of hair and twist it on itself once or twice. Then divide it in two, hold one part down and “rip” the other one by pulling it upwards. Bring the two parts back together, twist the hair again, divide it in two again and repeat. This will start knotting your hair. 
  2. Back-combing: for loose hair only. Tool needed: a very tight metal comb such as the one from RAW ROOTs. Comb your hair opposite of how you normally do, going upwards, and push to compact them well. Ideally you’d alternate back-combing and twist&rip to create a nice, cylindrical shape. 
  3. Palm-rolling: for freeform dreads or matted hair, no tool needed. Take one dread and roll it between your hands, as if you’re creating a playdough snake. This will help your dreads to get more compact and cylindrical.
  4. Crocheting, or crochet method: for freeform dreads or matted hair, tool needed: a crochet hook, see below for the choices of crochet hooks. Stick the hook inside and through the hair, and use it to pull loose hair back inside the dread. Repeat until it’s compact and tidy. There are several tutorials on youtube where you can see this technique, which is easier to try than to explain.

Note: for maintenance and to help freeform locs you can choose the third method (palm rolling) which is just a gentle “push” or, for a better tidy-up, go ahead and use the forth method (crocheting). The crochet method is the one that really makes the difference. It requires a little time and patience, but still very little compared to the freeform method. This is why crocheted dreads are often called “instant” dreads.

6 different bamboo crochet hooks laid together on a flat surface

Some of the crochet hooks available on DreadLab

How to choose a crochet hook

The ideal sizes for crochet hooks range from 0,5 to 0,8 mm. If you’re getting dreads for the first time, a bigger 0,75-0,8mm hook will allow you to work faster; when your dreads are a bit more compact you will need a smaller one, so get yourself a 0,5-0,6mm hook as well. The smaller sizes will also help newborn dreads to get as tidy as possible. It’s always good to have several sizes available with you, for good maintenance of roots and lengths: this is why on DreadLab we offer many different options. Check the page Product type → tools to have an overview of the choices. We also offer the latched hook, which is more precise and gentle on the hair, and the advanced “spiked” latched hook, to get easily inside and through the dread.

If you need help maintaining your new dreads, of you have more questions, we recommend reading our dreadlocks maintenance guide and our natural dreadlocks FAQ.


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About the author

Margherita Orso Pletti - Italian dread maker, youtuber and blogger living in the UK. Creator of dreadhead.it, website in Italian about dreadlocks

Girl with dreadlocks face as she walks through trees